In light of the devastating earthquake that has crippled Haiti, Jamaica’s new Consul General in Toronto George Ramocan is proposing the establishment of a Jamaica Diaspora Disaster Fund to support recovery and long-term building needs in advance of a major natural disaster.
Haiti and its neighbours sit above two tectonic plates (the North American and the Caribbean) that slide awkwardly past one another in an east-west direction at about an inch a year. The 100-mile border between these two plates, known as the Enriquillo-Plaintain fault line, extends from the Dominican Republic through Haiti all the way to Jamaica.
In 1692, Port Royal – which was then one of the busiest and wealthiest ports in the Caribbean – sank below the sea in a destructive earthquake that resulted in the loss of nearly 5,000 lives. Jamaica’s last major earthquake occurred in 1907.
“The recent developments in Haiti are something that we can draw a number of lessons from,” Ramocan said at a community reception for him and his wife Dr. Lola Ramocan last week at the Jamaican Canadian centre. “The western countries in the Caribbean need to think and understand a little bit more that what happened in Haiti could well take place in Jamaica.
“The lessons coming out of Haiti are that with all of the good intentions, disaster relief agencies and developed countries that seek to come to our aid are running out of resources and we need to take note of that. These agencies and nations are stretched to the limit because disasters are happening more frequently in a more intense way. It’s wonderful that when disasters occur, we rise to the challenge and do all we can to rise as much as we can in order to help and alleviate suffering.
“If the resources that are being pumped into Haiti now were put in before the earthquake, many more lives would have been saved. It speaks to the proactive position we need to take as a people and learn the lesson that we cannot wait until disasters happen to begin to prepare for them. A disaster fund will help build resources and be used for disaster mitigation.”
Also high on Ramocan’s agenda are plans to ensure that more eligible Jamaicans pursue Canadian citizenship, develop a communication strategy to showcase the contributions of Jamaicans in the Greater Toronto Area, increase trade and investment opportunities for Jamaica and work with the Jamaican community here to plan a major celebration to mark the country’s 50th independence anniversary in August 2012.
“I intend to put together the most formidable team to celebrate the landmark,” he promised. “This will be an opportunity for Jamaica to showcase itself to Canada and the rest of the world. You have achieved much and you have lots to show. We are going to put on a major showcase and when it comes to doing something like this, Jamaica is very good at it.”
Prior to taking up his first diplomatic assignment last November, Ramocan served as a senator in Jamaica’s Parliament for six years and as parish councillor for seven years. He’s also a founding member of the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Democracy and the Caribbean Youth Conference and a Minister of Religion.
Ramocan said he was proud to be posted to the city where many Jamaicans, including Bromley Armstrong, Dr. Mavis Burke, Alvin Curling, Mary-Anne Chambers, Margarett Best, Dudley Laws and the late Louise Bennett-Coverley have made major contributions to Canadian society.
“Generations of great Jamaicans have been nurtured in Toronto,” he added.
JCA president Audrey Campbell, Professional Jamaican Association (PROJAM) president Dorothy Vernon-Brown and Dean of the CARICOM Consul Corps Madeline Blackman welcomed Ramocan to his new post.
“As Jamaicans, you are deeply religious as I understand it to be,” Blackman, the outgoing Antigua & Barbuda Consul General, told Ramocan. “I want to assume that you may have already experienced your baptism. If so, then we can regard tonight’s exercise as a form of confirmation.”
Jamaica’s consul Nigel Smith described his new boss and Church of God International deacon as “extremely warm, engaging” and someone with boundless energy and passion.
Two of the Ramocan’s four children – Bonita and Merika and their two children who reside in the United States – attended the reception.